Cassette Jockey World Championships

I have a busy weekend ahead of me at this years Maker Faire. I will be teaching various workshops and running a Cartoonist Conspiracy table, but the single most exciting thing for me this year is going to be judging the Cassette Jockey World Championships.

The event, which takes place this Saturday, is being organized by The Evolution Control Committee’s TradeMark. Here is what he has to say about this year’s event:

CALLING ALL: Cassette Jockies… Retro-Tech Lovers… Magnetic Media Monsters… Circuit Benders… Multi-Media DJs… Walkman Hot-Rodders… we want you at the:

2007 CASSETTE JOCKEY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
at the Make Magazine Maker Faire!

Like the popular DJ (Disk Jockey) competitions with record-toting DJs showing off their turntable skills, the CJ Championships showcases skills and styles in the venerable world of cassettes. CJs are encouraged to hot-rod their own equipment — eviscerated boomboxes, disembodied tape heads, and overclocked Walkmans are all fair game… anything that used the standard cassette as its ammo.

Forget DJs, this is for the CJs: The CassetteJockey Championship is where YOU can show off your skills as a world-class CJ. This is your chance to show the world what the venerable and once-mighty cassette tape is capable of. The CJ who amazes the judges with their skill, technique, and knowledge will become the 2007 CASSETTEJOCKEY CHAMPION!

Full Details Here:
Musique Concrète, then into the more practical pop sounds of Jean Jacques Perrey, only to be brought back into it through my interest in experimental tape damaging and circuit bending.

By our standards, the cassette is one of the most limited mediums for working with audio, but it’s those limitations that can bring out the most creativity in an artist. I’m excited to see what tricks competitors pull out of their sleeves. We’ll probably see some CJs fade between cassette decks like a DJ mixes records, but cueing a cassette deck is much more difficult.

Here are some of the methods that can be used to work with cassette:

4 Tracking: The magnetic tape in a cassette actually consists of 4 tracks. The cassette head only reads two tracks at a time though, one side’s left channel, and the right. 4 track home recording devices make use of all four tracks simaltanously. With a mixer, an artist can mix and blend tracks, but of course on a stock cassette 2 of the 4 tracks will be backwards.

Cut and Splicing: This is the method most used by the early musique concrete artists to create a sound collage. To splice tape, you would pull out sections of tape and cut them up, before assembling them back together with adhessive. Check out this cool tool. Splicing is probably the most time consuming method of tape alteration. It would be used to create random sound collages, or for assembling a verse from one song with the chorus of another, or it can even be used to create a new “beat” by making all the cut music the exact same length.

Hardware Alterations: This would pretty much involve circuit bending your cassette player and adding various methods of control over it such as a potientiometer to control tape speed/pitch. Oscillators and other circuits could also be added I guess.

Tape Damaging: Although the results cannot really be controlled too well, you can get interesting sounds by damaging the tape. Here is a good page about this method. Basically, stretching bits of tape, crinkling it, demagnetizing it, and/or dragging it over rough surfaces (like a set of keys) can be used for damaging the tape.

Non-traditional Cassette Housing: Loop cassettes used to be easily availlable from stores like Radio Shack. Generally used for answering machines, these are always fun toys to play with. Here is an article on instructables on how to make your own. But the cassette isn’t even necessary, you could store the tape on larger external reels, as long as you still have a method of pulling them through the head.

Magnetic Head Instruments: These are great toys to play with. It redifines tape music by removing the tape head (which is usually very secure) and make the tape fixed. The coolest device I’ve seen was a tape head stylus that was dragged against a sheet of magnetic tape to play sound. Depending on the speed the stylus was moved, the pitch would change. Too cool, right? I can’t find a link for this right now though.

I’m excited to see any of these methods used this weekend, but I really hope to see new methods that I haven’t seen. It’s going to be cool.